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Shortage of medicines for ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Updated 18 January 2024.

Helpful information for people taking medication for ADHD, their carers, families, schools and workplaces.

There is a national shortage of the medication prescribed for ADHD.  The shortage is now expected to last until April 2024. However, supplies of some medicines may be coming back into stock intermittently (with stock available sometimes but not at others). Please bear with your pharmacy and GP surgery as they have no control on when supplies will and won’t be available while the disruption in supply starts to improve.

This information has been produced to help you understand the shortage, how it may affect you and what you can do.

We know there are limited supplies of medication available, and this is very frustrating and there is little you can do about it.

These things may help:

  • Telling your family, friends, school, or workplace about the shortage of medication. This can help them understand so they can be more supportive and make adjustments for you.
  • Check how much medication you have on a regular basis, so you can manage your supply as well as you can, but we know some people will run out of medicines or have already run out.
  • Try different pharmacies if you cannot get your prescription from your usual pharmacy.
  • Reducing your dose safely or using it differently if you are unable to get your medicines.
  • Some coping strategies may help such as increased physical activity, organised approach to daily living, good sleep, eating a balanced diet, and talking therapies. However, we know that this might be not possible for everyone.
  • Medication helps people with ADHD pay attention during tough tasks like exams, driving, or at work. If you are a parent with a child with ADHD, think about ways you can support your child with exams or study or give extra time.
  • It may lead to impulsive behaviours such as being indulgent, underestimating tasks, or acting without thinking.

We know these things are not as simple as they sound for people with ADHD.  At the bottom of this leaflet are some useful links to support and information that may help you manage.

Helpful information for people taking medication for ADHD, their carers, families, schools and workplaces.

There is a national shortage of the medication prescribed for ADHD.  The shortage is now expected to last until April 2024. However, supplies of some medicines may be coming back into stock intermittently (with stock available sometimes but not at others). Please bear with your pharmacy and GP surgery as they have no control on when supplies will and won’t be available while the disruption in supply starts to improve.

This information has been produced to help you understand the shortage, how it may affect you and what you can do.

We know there are limited supplies of medication available, and this is very frustrating and there is little you can do about it.

These things may help:

  • Telling your family, friends, school, or workplace about the shortage of medication. This can help them understand so they can be more supportive and make adjustments for you.
  • Check how much medication you have on a regular basis, so you can manage your supply as well as you can, but we know some people will run out of medicines or have already run out.
  • Try different pharmacies if you cannot get your prescription from your usual pharmacy.
  • Reducing your dose safely or using it differently if you are unable to get your medicines.
  • Some coping strategies may help such as increased physical activity, organised approach to daily living, good sleep, eating a balanced diet, and talking therapies. However, we know that this might be not possible for everyone.
  • Medication helps people with ADHD pay attention during tough tasks like exams, driving, or at work. If you are a parent with a child with ADHD, think about ways you can support your child with exams or study or give extra time.
  • It may lead to impulsive behaviours such as being indulgent, underestimating tasks, or acting without thinking.

We know these things are not as simple as they sound for people with ADHD.  At the bottom of this leaflet are some useful links to support and information that may help you manage.

What medicines are affected by the shortage?

Methylphenidate

Lisdexamphetamine

Guanfacine

Atomoxetine

There are other ADHD medicines available see ‘are there alternative meds’ below.

How long will the shortage last?

We do not know. The shortage is currently expected to last until April 2024, but there is no definite date for when new supplies will become available so it may be longer. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully and provide updates.

Who should I contact for advice about my medicines?

Your pharmacy, GP practice, and ADHD services know how important your medicine is to you. They are working hard to try to find supplies of these medicines and to minimise the impact on people affected by these shortages.

If you have a prescription, contact your pharmacy to see if they have supplies.  Do try different pharmacies if you can’t get your prescription from your usual pharmacy. The NHS website can help you find you local pharmacy.

If you cannot get your medicine, it is unlikely that your Pharmacy, GP practice and/or ADHD service will be able to help you find any until stock levels return to normal, but they may be able to help you or provide advice to manage the impact the medicines shortage is having.

If you use a private provider to get your prescriptions, there may be additional costs for getting support or alternative medicines prescribed.

We know the supply issues are global and that you need your medicine to help manage your ADHD symptoms. We understand how frustrating this is for everyone affected.

What if I’m unable to get my usual medication?

Running out of ADHD medication can be worrying and distressing.

Without your ADHD medication the ADHD symptoms they managed will return. ADHD symptoms may reappear or get worse. Hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention may become problems again within a day or so of stopping medication. ADHD affects everyone differently and your symptoms are specific to you.  Please ask for support from your GP if you are struggling with your mental health, they may be able to help you find other ways to manage this.

What can I do to manage my ADHD during the shortage?

You can share a copy of this information to help others understand or direct them to the Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) conditions page on the NHS website, or schools to Clinical Partners advice for schools to help children and young people with ADHD.

If you are taking methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine, you could make your supply of medicine last longer by not taking it every day. Think about if there are days you could manage without your ADHD medication, for some people this could be when they are not at work or school. It is medically safe to take breaks with this medication.

Medicines have a generic name which refers to the active ingredient of the medicine and then a brand name from the manufacturer used for marketing purposes. So, for example, there is generic ibuprofen which has a brand name called Nurofen. This is the same for ADHD medications (for example, generic methylphenidate has several brands including one called Xaggitin).

Not all ADHD medications are available in the generic form, but methylphenidate is. Your prescription can be changed from the branded version (if you are on methylphenidate tablets, not capsules), this needs to be done by your prescriber, the pharmacy cannot do this for you. This has been less affected by supply issues. This change is safe and will not affect your treatment.

Are there alternative medications available?

Some ADHD medicines are not as affected by the shortages. Your prescriber may be able to prescribe another medication to reduce your symptoms, like moving you from branded methylphenidate to the generic, or prescribing a different medication. This might not be suitable for everyone, and these medicines could also be affected by the shortages.  There may be times when you have no medication.

Is it safe to stop taking guanfacine if I run out?

No, Guanfacine must always be stopped slowly by gradually decreasing the dose over a period of time. If you stop taking this medication suddenly it can cause your blood pressure to increase.

GP practices and ADHD services have contacted patients who take Guanfacine to discuss how to adapt treatment safely.

Is it safe to stop taking Atomoxetine if I run out?

Yes, it is safe. Atomoxetine is not known to have withdrawal side effects or symptoms, which means there are no side-effects if you stop taking it. However, if you stop taking this medicine it can cause changes in your ADHD symptoms. Stopping your ADHD medicine means your ADHD symptoms will return.

Is it safe to stop taking methylphenidate or lisdexamfetamine if I run out?

Yes, it is safe. These medications can safely be stopped for a few days, for example over weekends, and taking breaks from medication on days when you feel you don’t need it can help your supply last longer. There are no known side effects from stopping this medication.

When will there be an update on the shortage?

We are carefully monitoring the situation and will provide more information as soon as possible.

Is this shortage affecting all pharmacies?

This is a national shortage affecting all pharmacies – including hospital and community pharmacies. Pharmacies may use different suppliers for medicines so availability can vary. This is why some pharmacies have supplies while others may not. Availability can change quickly, so do check regularly.

Why is there a shortage?

Medicine supply issues happen and can be caused by lots of things. It could be manufacturing problems, or delivery problems. Problems can develop quickly and can be national or more local supply issues.

The shortage of ADHD medicines is caused by a combination of manufacturing issues and an increased global demand as more people are diagnosed as there is greater awareness of ADHD.

Your community pharmacy team is working hard to try to get your medicines. Please be patient with the staff.

Community Pharmacy England have produced a general patient factsheet about medicines supply issues.

What do I do when my regular medication is back in stock?

As shortages resolve, your regular medication may be coming back into stock. Most people can restart the medication they were on previously without any problems. However, if you have taken a longer break from your medicine when you start again you may notice more side effects and it might take a while for medication such as atomoxetine and guanfacine to work again. If you need further help and advice discuss with your ADHD service about restarting.

Please also be aware that as medicines come back into stock, you may have to try different pharmacies to obtain your prescription. It can take time for supplies to reach pharmacies despite manufacturers saying they are available. It is possible with many people waiting for supplies that when stock returns it may not be available straightaway for everybody.

Please remember…
Our doctors, nurses and pharmacists are doing everything they can to help people through a difficult situation. We know that this is a very difficult time for you, but please be patient and remember that this is a worldwide manufacturing problem and healthcare staff are doing their very best to help.

Additional Information for Parents with Children at Special Educational Needs (SEN) Schools

If your child is having medication administered at school by staff, it is important to let the SEN team know about the shortages in ADHD medication.

Schools need to keep a box labelled for the individual child at school. Due to the current shortages, it may not be possible to provide a separate supply for home and school. The advice would be to share the medication between home and school and agree with the school who the medication should be handed to at the start of the school day and who will hand it back to the parent at the end of the school day. Have a conversation with your community pharmacist who may be able to provide appropriately labelled supplies.

In cases, where the ADHD medication is needing to be shared between home and school, please request the next prescription when you have 14 days of medication left. This should allow enough time for the prescription to come from GP/ADHD team and for the pharmacy to source the medication.

It might be helpful to agree a plan with the school SEN team and class teacher to help support your child whilst they are at school in the event your child attends school and has not taken their ADHD medication. If you or the SEN team would like advice and support, please contact your child’s CAMHS team.

If you are working with social care – please let your social worker/ family support worker know of the shortages.